Gatlinburg veteran, wife begin rebuilding lives after losing home to fire

GATLINBURG (WATE) – A displaced Gatlinburg couple married for more than 30 years is getting the chance to set up house for the second time.

Cathy and Joe Waggoner’s home overlooking the mountains is no more. With fire burning all around them nine days ago, they barely escaped up the road before the place was consumed. They started all over again on Wednesday.

Their journey began at Costco in West Knoxville where Cathy Waggoner was fitted with a new pair of glasses. Her old bifocals were left behind.

“Every day gets better, actually. At first it’s just shell shock and then the next 24 hours it’s just recovery. What do I need to do today to go on with my life,” she said.

Previous story: Safety steps for returning home after wildfires

Then it’s on to buy the essentials – those little things you take for granted every day until you don’t have them.

“We’re still a little bit in a daze of what all you need to have and we’re trying not to buy anything – we moved in with nothing in the car and we’re trying to move out with very little,” said Joe Waggoner.

The couple spent several hours picking up everyday items they’ll need while staying at their temporary home in Pigeon Forge.

“We’re going to get by with the bare minimum,” said Joe Waggoner.

Cathy Waggoner got a new keyfob for free from her car dealer. The original was lost in the fire. She credits good Samaritans who cleared the road, enabling them to escape the firestorm unharmed.

“Our guardian angels who fell out of the sky, because there was a huge tree across the road and there was no way we were going to cross that tree. They jumped out of Jeeps with a chainsaw and started sawing this big tree,” she said.

“We have each other, and our family and we’re very thankful for our life,” said Joe Waggoner.

While their spirits are very strong, the trauma they experienced is very different. Psychologically, the Waggoners aren’t ready to say yet whether they’ll rebuild on the site of their former home.

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